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The Military's Graduate Programs Aren't Really Training the Nation's Future Cyberwarriors

A new report recommends that the Pentagon's graduate programs revise their curricula to include cyber-specific training. By Brittany Ballenstedt

Most of the six military graduate programs have not fully integrated cybersecurity education into their curricula or aligned their programs with the strategic goals of the nation’s cyber defense strategy, a new study suggests.

The study, “Joint Professional Military Education Institutions in an Age of Cyber Threat,” released last week by Pell Center Fellow Francesca Spidalieri, noted that while most military leaders do not need specific training in computer science or engineering, it is still imperative that they have a deep understanding of the cyber threat landscape. Yet this remains an area where most military graduate programs continue to fall short.  

“Even professional military institutions studying national security and strategy have only recently begun to integrate cybersecurity education in their curricula, despite more than a decade’s worth of experience suggesting that networks and information technologies are both essential to operations and vulnerable to attack,” the report stated.

More specifically, the report found that the Joint Professional Military Education at the six U.S. military graduate schools -- a requirement for becoming a Joint Staff Officer and for promotion to the senior ranks -- has not effectively incorporated cybersecurity into specific courses, conferences, war gaming exercises or other forms of training for military officers. While these graduate programs are more advanced on cybersecurity than most American civilian universities, a preparation gap still exists.

The study, which ranked the military graduate programs on a 4-point Likert scale, found National Defense University in Washington, D.C., to have the most advanced cyber curriculum, receiving a score of 3.5 out of 4. The U.S. Naval War College and the Naval Postgraduate School each received a score of 3 on cyber education, followed by the U.S. Air Force Air War College (2), Marine Corps War College (1) and the U.S. Army War College (0.5). 

In response, the report recommended that military graduate programs revise their curricula to include cybersecurity education, and expand such programs not only to military officers but to Defense civilian employees, other federal agencies and international officers.

“The question will not be whether or not the U.S. can develop the best and most powerful cyber capabilities to accomplish a certain feat, but whether our military – and our nation’s leaders – will be equipped with knowledge necessary to confront a wide array of cyber threats and establish both a competitive and security advantage on the modern battlefield,” the report stated.

(Image by Maksim Kabakou via Shutterstock)